It’s embarrassing but true. I woke up this morning to a murder of crows cawing up a storm. I looked at my alarm and saw that it was five minutes to wake up time anyway so I rolled out of bed. There was a sudden silence and then the sound of a car taking off. I imagined the crows breaking into a neighbor’s car and taking it for a joy-ride. I chuckled to myself at this little cartoon in my head when I stood up and then fell over. I looked down and saw that my feet were missing. (I’ve been fighting a brutal cold and took three helpings of neo-citroen last night. I guess it had numbed my body completely.) 

   I knew I should have gone to bed with the lower half of my body safely stowed away in a safe. That’s the advice I would give to you. 

   But the show must go on in spite of the missing feet – as showbiz cripples often say – and so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here’s today’s short-short story…

 

In the Award Winning Hereafter

 

    John and Tina entered the Silver Stars Senior Citizens Talent Contest with some minor bickering. John had written on the entry forms that Tina was 65 when in fact she was 64. “I don’t qualify,” she insisted while John dug through her closet of shoes, looking for her Middle Eastern-looking slippers. “It’s a cute bit. The folks’ll love it, Tina.” He stepped out from her closet with her shoes and a large smile that lifted his aging face. Not since the birth of their grand-daughter had Tina seen him looking so spry.  

    “Okay but on one condition.”

    “You name it.”

    “If we win the prize money goes to Iraqi orphans.”

     John nodded vigorously and his glasses slid down his nose. 

    That night, John and Tina wowed the audience of 87 seniors with their homey yet eclectic rendition of Aladdin’s “Whole New World” but midway through a “world” they both toppled off the edge of the stage, landing on their heads. A chorus of worried gasps rushed through the crowd. Hands went to mouths. One senior pulled out his cell-phone to call his paramedic granddaughter. Three seniors- fearing that the grim reaper was in their midst – left the auditorium, grabbed some free quarter-sliced sandwiches and fled the building. 

     For their part, John and Tina continued dancing into the afterlife, assuming the fall was all part of the rush of the performance. They spun, waltzed and jitter-bugged into heaven assuming it was still just the backdrop to their song. God, for once in his life feeling bad about a mishap on earth, decided to pretend it was a Muslim heaven. His angels were dispatched with Muslim garb to give all the Christian residents in the event that John and Tina should dance through their quarter. “Otherwise, business as usual,” God announced.

   And so it went for John and Tina for eternity.

   A whole new world.


   I have one of the best jobs in the world. I step into a Flight Centre, sit down across from a smiling sales representative and ask how much it is to Tokyo, Korea or Brussels, France. Sometimes they think I’m joking and they laugh but I hold onto an earnest expression until they realize that I only have a grade one knowledge of geography. I ask a hundred other ridiculous questions, to test their patience with customers, and then I sometimes go over to the big map on the wall and ask how much that would cost. I’m a pain in the ass sure but through my dedication to my profession some of the weaker employees have been culled from the Flight Centre. 

    Each story that I’ve written on this blog is something that I’ve included in one of my tours of duty in a Flight Centre. After asking how much a Eurail pass is I’ll go into a rant about my idiot neighbour. Essentially, this blog is where I practice my ridiculous stories that I use in the line of duty.

   I’ve introduced myself as somebody different everyday in order to throw anyone off my trail. I didn’t want to reveal the tricks of my trade. Starting today, however, I’m training other secret shoppers and I’m using this blog as an educational tool. 

   Enjoy today’s story…

 


 

Snakes, Flowers, Gorillas and Mariachi Bands on Planes 

 

   I’d like our flight to take off in the evening, just at the tiniest hint of twilight if possible. I want to fly up as the sun is going down so that we can see the sun go back up again. It’ll be as if the sun is doing a double take on how romantic our evening is. Yes, it’s going to be a romantic vacation for us and I’d like to start it off right, you know, flowers, a mariachi band and a gorilla with flowers. It’s all in this poem which I’ve written for the occasion. Do you know who I’d call to get the green light for all that? I realize there’s not a lot of space on a plane but do you realize that Janice and I are both cancer survivors? Do you realize how important a ten-year anniversary is to one cancer survivor? Can you imagine two? Yes, it’s precious and there’s always room for compromise. Will it upset the other passengers? Well then I have a suggestion for the airline. No Snakes on Planes. I can’t believe they played that movie on the last flight I took to Europe. If the airlines want to reduce air-rage well why not show something a little more relaxing. They can stop their persecution of mariachi bands who want to make an honest living by playing for a cancer couple’s ten-year anniversary. What’s wrong with this country? Won’t all this simply add to everyone’s experience. The sun going down and up and music playing ay-ya-yayayyay. I’ll be getting into my gorilla costume – that’s how Janice and I met – and when I come out with the balloons the pilot will read out my poem. Do you know who our pilot will be? I’d like to ask him about reading this poem. If possible I’d like a pilot who’s survived cancer. Somebody that can relate. When was the last time you survived cancer? Well it’s important. 

 

   So the jig’s finally up and here I am coming out with my hands raised to the sky. Yes, I, David Eggers have been the merry prankster (sans LSD) behind the past five months of various claims to authorship on this here site. As of today you can put your address in the comments section below to receive a copy of all the contents on this site in a special 141-box edition of McSweeneys. Each story is written around a box which opens up to another box and down and down it goes until the smallest box, which is today’s story, will be in the palm of your hand for you to enjoy.

   I hope you’ve enjoyed all the playful fictions on this blog. 

 

Arms, Arms, Arms, the Arms of the Man

 

   Anderson was sorely disappointed in his newly acquired abundance of arms. He’d forgotten to pick up the six-sleeved t-shirt handmade by his mother in anticipation of the great change so for the first week he walked around with his extras bundled around his belly, stretching out his favorite t-shirts beyond belief. All he wanted was to put these extra appendages to good use. “It’s like carrying around a bunch of unopened Christmas gifts under your shirt,” he complained to his co-worker, Marc, in the mail sorting room. “Go shirtless,” Marc suggested. “In pubic?” Anderson hollered and he threw a letter bound for Bolivia into the domestic bin. 

   Anderson made mistakes. He was a busy man. While his supervisor, Bernard, berated him later that afternoon for having the highest rate of misdirected mail, Anderson counted – thumb to fingers- the reasons for his failings. When Bernard stopped shouting to take a sip from his tepid coffee, Anderson countered with 17 explanations which included: Marc makes innate suggestions regarding my personal life, I’m still waiting for the six-sleeved t-shirt which will help me be the best employee this place has ever seen and I have chronic itching which keeps my hands preoccupied. As Anderson explained this one of his new arms reached out from beneath his shirt to scratch at behind his knee.

    “And finally Marc keeps sexually harassing me. I got these extra arms to swat him back,” Anderson concluded, repeating a lunch-room joke that now come out in earnest. Why did he say that? 

     Bernard raised the thicker end of his monobrow.  “That’s a serious charge. We have to take that seriously, you know.” He walked behind his desk, opened a drawer and flipped through some files.

    Anderson nodded while his twenty fingers tapped out rolls beneath his shirt. It sounded as if his stomach were rumbling. His heart was beating furiously. Confess that it was just a joke. Yes, piss Bernard off even more.

    “Where did he touch you?” Bernard asked with his pen hovering over the official looking document. 

     “The buttocks,” Anderson said.

      “How many times?”

      “Three or four.”

      Anderson’s hands and arms became damp beneath his shirt. He felt like he was at the bottom of a pile of people. He wished he never gotten all these arms. Run, something inside him said. He wished he had ordered two new pairs of legs. But would his mother be able to find a pattern for pants that size? 

     “Anderson?”

     “Yeah?”

     “Sign here.”

     Beneath his shirt he crossed all his fingers and then signed the report.

  I’ve spent my career as a poet striving to find new forms of expression. Recently, I’ve been putting my poems up on youtube but this site has also been a foray into something new. Over the past five months I’ve pretended to be over a hundred and forty different people. The point of all this mask-making has been to examine the notion of identity online and off. The multiple layers of the self made up of the world around us.  

   You.

   Me.

  As a structural challenge I’ve also taken the comments made at the bottom of each day and allowed myself to use only those words for the next day or two or however long it takes to get another comment. Thereby playing out the permutations of another person’s message.

   And now for today’s short-short story…

 

Did he fit your handshake?

 

   One Wednesday evening, on the cusp of twilight, Derrick Garbert got the call about a Mini-Austin backed into a ditch at the corner of 168th and 80th. “Easy,” he said by way of good-bye and he flicked his cigarette out the window. He pressed his big hand down on the stick-shift which reached up with a customized hand of its own. His hairy fingers expertly slipped through the metal fingers and he put the truck in gear. After seventeen minutes of AC/DC’s High Voltage, he pulled up next to the front of the car. A seven foot man stood next to it. “You could carry that home, what did you call me for?” Derrick said, half-seriously. The man said something about his back but Derrick couldn’t understand his accent. Within minutes the car was hoisted up out of the ditch and Derrick was hauling it to the nearest mechanic. The man barely fit next to Derrick in his truck. The man seemed to be complaining about the size of his cab. “Don’t make them any bigger,” Derrick replied, squeezing the hand of the stick-shift. The man didn’t tip anything on top of the twenty dollar towing fee.

   “How did he fit into that car?” Derrick’s wife asked later that evening.

   “Don’t know. Didn’t ask. Don’t like talking to complainers. They make poor conversationalists.”

   “But you should ask about something like that.”

   “I don’t know. I’ve seen weirder things.” 

    But he couldn’t think of anything and that’s when he got the idea of taking pictures of everyone in their car after a successful tow. Just to be on the safe side as well as a nice touch. 

    xprmnt alwyz n nevr stop th attmpt to kreate sumthng new this has bn th point of my 70 books of poetry n now th site yer eyes r winding throu alwyz turning identities into taktile sumthings, a groop of people to party with perhps, meening twistd arownd nw spellings to new momnt of you

    ive xperimneted stroumboulouboulopoulis styl wth peepole im knot 

    njoy

 


 

Would You Rather I Write You a Love Poem or Clean the Bathroom?

 

    Gabriel and Gretta hug their last goodbyes to the bride and groom and walk ten minutes under the crescent moon to the Howard Johnston Hotel. “Aren’t these wedding favors cute?” Gabriel says, holding up a miniature wedding contraption. Gretta is looking up at the moon and says, “Are they ever,” but to be honest neither of them know what these little devices are. The bride is an engineer and the groom is an avant-guard sculptor and so there may or may not be some use to the little mechanical doodad in Gabriel’s warm hand. “I’ll never forget the time I made a volcano for a science fare,” Gabriel explains and tries to turn three or four memories into an interesting story. Gretta remains distracted by the moon.

   Once inside their hotel room, Gabriel lands with a bounce on the king sized bed. Gretta goes into the bathroom. “What’s on your mind, Gretta?” Gabriel says loudly, finding intimacy easier at a distance. He gets up and opens the curtains to reveal the half-moon. If he carried a half-disc in his pocket he could always create a full moon he thinks and wonders why he isn’t an avant-guard artist. He’s a little drunk. He goes back to the bed but then thinks better and closes the curtain. They’ve never once made love by an uncurtained window.

   “I’m thinking about somebody who made something for me a long time ago.” She comes out from the bathroom with a glass of water and sets it by the night-stand.

    “And who was this somebody?” Gabriel asks, smiling.

    “It was somebody I knew in Ireland.” She stretches out on the bed.

    The smile drops from his lips. A vague anger sloshes back and forth somewhere in his body. His lust is in tangles.

     “You were in love with him?” he asks ironically.

     “It was a boy named Michael Jordan. A short, little Irish boy. He built this contraption for me. Something made out of computer parts and monitors and it was definitely strange but he said that it would do everything I needed. It was a joke of course and he was such a nerd – really awkward – and there was no way I was interested in him but then the contraption fell on him the day before the science fair. It kept asking one question while it was laying on his little crushed body.”

    She weeps into her open hands and the previous accumulation of feelings flee Gabriel’s body. He struggles to find the right words to say.

    Time to come clear. I’m not George Stroumboulopoulos, or a precocious 9-year-old or even the grandson of James Joyce. In fact none of the people I’ve claimed to be over the past five months on this blog are really me.  Truth is I’m just a guy trying to get some good old-fashioned laughs. I do stuff here and there  (yes that’s quoted from an actual resume I wrote once) and when I’m not busy with all that I like to pretend I’m somebody else and write a story under their name. It’s an internet hobby that a lot of people are taking part in these days. 

  So here’s today’s story…

 

The World Throws a Surprise Party for the Secretary General of the United Nations

 

   Mrs. Ban: It was so nice of the world to throw my husband that party. And the organization really impressed us. All those people. All the people of the world! The entire world yelling “surprise” at once. It was remarkable. Very loud. I’m sorry I reached for my mace but I was startled. After I was over the shock, I was delighted. I giggled. It’s been a long time since I made that sound. The cake incident was unfortunate but Ban and I don’t like to dwell on mistakes. Or the other things that happened. But in the end it was very nice of the world to make Ban’s birthday so memorable. That’s what’s important.

 

Crane Operator: Well when I got the call, I thought it was a prank but when those suits from the UN showed up at my doorstep with all that money I knew they meant business. And then there was that invitation to the surprise party for Ban Ki-Moon in the mail the next day so I was like Yeah this is for real and sure it was kind of thrilling to think that I’d been chosen to lower the giant cake on top of the Bans. I mean from being a snot-nosed kid in the Bronx to being in the middle of a crowd of billions, kind of gives you a rush. A cake made up of giant children holding hands. It was touching. And delicious. I swear I had no idea the chains couldn’t hold it. I thought everything was sound. And yeah it fell on Mr. Ban. But he ate his way out. The photo taken of him eating his way out was unfortunate. That shouldn’t have been taken but everyone was pretty good about it. Yeah, and then that other incident.

 

Photographer: Well how could I not take that picture? I mean it was slightly salacious but come on everyone’s got a sense of humor. I mean you have to nowadays. The UN’s top banana with his head popping out from the crotch of that cake-kid and I went berserk. I must have taken about a hundred photos of that moment. Memorable is right. I mean it was nicely organized but you don’t want a day like that to go too perfectly. Then it’s boring. Now we really have an image that’ll help us remember the time the world set aside their differences for a while and did something together for a change. But oh man with his head sticking out from the crotch of that cake-boy. Funny stuff. And then when he pulled Oprah and Obama and Putin – I think it was Putin –  into the cake and there was a giant cake fight. You know I can’t even pinpoint the exact moment people started shooting each other.

 

 

Organizer #264: Well we knew there would be some logistic problems. That’s what the supercomputers kept telling us but we kept plugging away at inputting data and things ended up pretty damn organized. There were the shootings near the end. Yes. The riot broke out in sector 456, that was an area we hadn’t anticipated as being so problematic. It spread all the way to the epicenter of the event in a matter of minutes. We told everyone to leave their guns at home. But there weren’t any more deaths than there are on average. Globally. That’s an important fact the papers keep leaving out.

 

 

Pizza Guy: Sold a hell of a lot of pizza but that doesn’t mean there was a conspiracy. I mean I knew the organizers and so I got the contract. What’s wrong with that? It was a surprise party and if they’d advertised the position, Ban might’ve caught wind of the event. I mean come on, people. I sell good pizza and so when that hooligan punk made disparaging remarks about me and my nepotistic pizza, I gave him the what for. And then somebody pulled a gun. Really shitty. I mean one day. Can’t we have one day for a guy’s birthday. I mean I don’t know him but he’s never done me no harm. Throw the guy a surprise party. Yeah, it’s a lot of work but they’ve got computers doing most of the hard stuff.

  It was a simple idea. The challenge was doing it from a secure location that wouldn’t immediately get shut down. When I started rest of the movie,  I thought it would be an interesting experiment to also write a short-short story everyday to compete with the movies. I mean let’s be honest there is an unstated competition among the arts and I thought I’d pit movies against literature. I took a circuitous route to revealing who I am on this site to add an element of daily suspense. So far movies are ahead but I’m working on other competition venues. In two weeks I’m going to be selling my next book to people during a movie. I’m curious to see how that’ll go.

   My name is Tommy Treadwell and may the competition continue…

 

A Man Tests the Level to Which his Wife is Actually Listening to Him

   So that woman who seemed to be flirting with me last week. Uh huh. Turns out she’s a really nice lady. Really? Yeah, we chatted today and she’s definitely not a prostitute. She works as a secretary downtown. Oh yeah? Cause you said that last week. What? That she must have been a hooker but this morning there were two bona fide hookers walking past the bus stop and there was neither tension nor camaraderie between them. Well, I stand corrected. It’s funny how we actually got to talking. A bum rode over her foot with a shopping cart. She was wearing these pointy little things. She was also wearing a lot of makeup. She had enough eyeliner on for ten as if she were a makeup bank for all the other secretaries in her building. Like as if everyone would scrap a little off her face and put it on their own. Yeah? I shouldn’t be that mean with my new friend. New friend?  Well yeah so the bum rode over the pointy tip of her shoe and I punched him out. That’s how we met. Uh huh. And she’s coming over next Wednesday for dinner and a threesome. Oh great.